Long before the days of cell phones a railroad engineer in Auburn devised a clever method to signal his wife that he was almost home. When his train had passed the old Neely Mansion heading west on the Northern Pacific line he blasted two toots: when he was in the Mallet steam locomotive pictured to the left it was two whistles; when he was in his diesel locomotive it was two blasts on the horn. His home was located a few blocks north of the line, on land currently occupied by the Maple Lane Estates apartments on R Street SE.
His wife would run out to the sun room where she’d wave her biggest tea towel to show that she’d heard him. Ten minutes later she’d pack up three little grandchildren, all sisters, and head down to the Northern Pacific round house in their Dodge coupe to pick him up. The round house was located about two blocks to the west of where Denny’s now stands on Auburn Way South.
Because there was no back seat in the coupe the three little girls stood behind the front seat on the way back to the house. Standing in the back of the coupe was also the same way that they got to the Point Defiance zoo or around on any of their other various excursions. The youngest granddaughter would get tired and try to crouch in the cramped space to rest her little legs.
Nowadays they’d be arrested for child endangerment. But to put it in perspective, seat belts weren’t even an option on Dodges at that time.
The Auburn Round House in Auburn was torn down in 1987. This past year the last child of that railroad engineer, Frank Cavanaugh, passed away at the age of 91. With her goes some of the stories only known by that generation.
When your family gathers over the holidays I hope you’ll share the tales that make up the history of your family. If you wait, you might lose those stories forever.
Are you ready to share your story about the people or history of Auburn? See the guidelines on our Tell Your Story page ( https://uniquelyauburn.wordpress.com/tell-your-story/ ) or come to our next “Share Your Story” session at the Auburn Public Library on Saturday, December 18 from 1:00 to 3:00. Download a flyer here: Share your story library session dec 18.